Prime Minister Modi’s Office in a Damage Control Mode:
May 15, 2020. Washington DC. Within twenty-four hours of sending the letter to the World Bank expressing concerns over the way in which COVID 19 related funds, including the nature and functioning
of a newly created “PM CARES FUND” in India are handled, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) went into a damage control mode and made a U-Turn by making few details public.
A few weeks ago, the PMO refused to divulge any information on this mysterious “Prime Minister Cares” fund created in a hurry while there is “Prime Minister’s Relief Fund” already available for
the same purposes.
On Monday, May 11, Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations (FIACONA) and Save the Persecuted Christians (STPC) sent a multifaith letter to the World Bank expressing concerns
over how COVID 19 related funds are handled by the Indian government. Thirty-four different organizations signed it. The letter suggested the Bank to consider setting up an independent committee of
eminent people in India to monitor the $ 1 Billion COVID 19 related relief package approved by the World Bank.
On May 12, Tuesday night, the PMO reversed its position and issued a statement, saying the PM Cares Fund will spend $4.1 Billion (31,000 Crores Rupees) on COVID 19 related expenses.
Out of this amount, the statement indicated that $ 2.7 Billion (2000 Crore Rupees) would be used for buying 50,000 ventilators at the cost of roughly $ 5,330 dollars apiece, and over $ 13 million
(1 Billion Rupees) for vaccine development.
While FIACONA and STPC welcome the Prime Minister’s change of heart, we are disappointed that the information revealed is too vague and devoid of necessary details such as, how these contracts are
awarded or to whom they are awarded, or if the government invited any bids before awarding the contracts.
FIACONA still would like to insist that Prime Minister Modi come clean with public funds and not treat it as his private slush fund.
FIACONA believes that the lending institutions must have the confidence that the funds provided are used efficiently and transparently by the Modi government. But as of now, such confidence and
transparency are lacking. Hence, setting up an independent committee made up of eminent people in India becomes essential to monitor the use of funds offered by the World Bank. Leaving it to the
designs of the Modi government, especially after having seen their track record, would be an invitation to corruption and disaster of handling such funds.
Click here for a copy of the open letter dated May 11, 2020.
Click here for a copy of the statement issued by FIACONA on May 13 2020.
Click here for a
copy of the statement issued by STPC on May 12 2020.
FIACONA Asks the President and the World Bank to Closely Monitor the Funds Sent to India for COVID-19 Relief:
The Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations (FIACONA) and Save The Persecuted Christians (STPC) jointly sent a letter to President Trump and Mr. David Malpass, the President of World
Bank Group raising concerns about the COIVD-19 related policies of the government of India and the deployment of 1 Billion US Dollars lent by the World Bank.
The letter addresses several systemic flaws in the Hindu nationalist government's approach to the problem. We are concerned that millions of people are being left out of the programs meant to help
the people during this crisis.
Several reports indicate that religious minorities are being unfairly singled out by the government in many places as a part of pandemic response.
Though Christians and other religious minorities are suffering due to government actions, they are not the only victims. Various sections of economically vulnerable people are greatly suffering
due to these fundamentally flawed attitudes of Mr. Modi's Hindu nationalist government.
Because the core constituents of the Hindu nationalist party are always religiously upper-caste Hindus, linguistically Hindi speaking, and economically middle class, government policies seem to be
crafted for them instead of the whole population.
The evidence of it was loud and clear last month when tens of millions of migrant manual workers working in cities, who happen to belong mostly to lower castes, were left to fend for themselves after
Prime Minister Modi made a surprise announcement to lock down the entire nation after a four-hour notice with no planning or contingencies.
Mr. Koshy George, the President of FIACONA pointed out the fact that when the BJP government under Modi sent several government-funded special aircraft to fly stranded Indian tourists and workers
from various countries back, millions of poor migrant worker with small children and pregnant women were forced to walk hundreds of miles on an empty stomach to reach their villages.
Most of the funds from the World Bank are meant for testing and managing the infections. But even in testing for the virus, we have documented that the officials are unnecessarily singling out
poor religious minorities for targeted testing and vilification in the media. Such sustained vilification encouraged by the Hindu government is creating an enormous level of friction and tension in
society. It is like a powder keg that could explode at any time.
Moreover, though many belonging to particular religious groups test negative for COVID 19, they are detained along with those quarantined for having tested positive.
The Covid-19 relief measures of the Modi government are NOT aimed at helping the poor, migrant labor, or the women – the most vulnerable during this time. Instead, the government programs are
aimed at helping large business houses affiliated with Mr. Modi's party.
At the same time, small businesses owned by religious minorities are targeted for closures. Several of Mr. Modi's colleagues in the government have openly called for boycotting businesses owned by
religious minorities during this pandemic. Mr. Modi kept silent all through indicating his support.
Mr. John Prabhudoss, the Chairman of FIACONA said, "Verified reports also inform us that Prime Minister Modi has created a fund called 'Prime Minister Cares Fund' in March to collect money for
managing the pandemic. But the problem is this fund is outside the purview of public scrutiny or audit. This means, details of this fund, like how much money is collected, or how it is spent, who is
getting it, etc. are all secret".
Prime Minister Modi's office has already denied requests for any details about this fund. This kind of practice by Mr. Modi has created room for concerns about the possibility of even the World
Bank funds being misused by him.
further said, the letter co-authored by STPC and signed by 32 other organizations is asking President Trump and Mr. David Malpass, the President of the World Bank
Group to put in place a mechanism to address if not reduce the drawbacks in the approach of the Hindu nationalist government and possible misuse of funds meant for COVID-19.
Specifically, we are recommending them to seat a committee made up of multi-faith leaders and eminent economists in India as a watchdog that will report directly to the World Bank. They can
oversee how this money is spent instead of leaving it all in the hands of a government that has already proven to have a flawed approach.
Our suggestion is purely a precaution so that we won't have to see further deterioration and misuse of funds in an already stressful situation in India.